There are few greater challenges for a family business owner than choosing his or her successor. Owners bend over backwards to ensure their pick knows the company well, embodies its vision, and has the skill to shepherd it into the next generation.

When an owner finds that perfect successor, then, the tendency is to jump for joy and declare his or her mission accomplished. This is especially true when that chosen successor comes from a similar background and shares the owner’s expertise.

A word to family business owners: fight that tendency.

You might think this will make for a simple transition. It won’t. Some of the most fraught transitions can occur when owners assume they’re handing the baton off to a virtual clone.

Here’s the truth: clones are things of science fiction. However close you and your successor may be in technical substance, you’ll almost surely differ in managerial style.

And when those differences rub against the organization, friction will inevitably occur. Seasoned stakeholders will have to change how they interact with “the boss.” Used to one set of expectations, employees might rebel when confronted with another.

To stave off the coming friction, owners and successors must commit to open communication and careful preparation. Without those two elements, the new successor will struggle mightily to execute a smooth transition. Instead, he or she will perceive employee’s resistance as rejection, and the trouble will only multiply from there.Have you and your successor discussed your differences and how they could affect transition?

On more thing, if you’re not sure how to have the conversation, this conversation guide from a psychologist walks you through step by step. Check it out.


succession strength logo Succession Strength, Inc helps entrepreneurs and family business owners pass the business smoothly from owner to heir. Take the free survey today to assess your succession readiness.